'The government does need to step up' - Calls for age of free dental care to be raised

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has voiced her concern over the affordability of dental care in New Zealand after hearing reports of people with "very serious dental problems". 

"I hear very concerning reports of those who end up with very serious dental problems because they cannot afford regular checkups and small problems end up as big ones. Surely #WINZ could be more helpful? A stitch in time saves nine," she tweeted last week.

On TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning, founder of charity Revive a Smile Dr Assil Russel suggested a government initiative to raise the age of free dental case, or to allow WINZ to fund more dental care for individuals. 

"The government does need to step up."

She said there had been a lot of preventative measures introduced, but New Zealand was lacking in terms of access to dental care and making it affordable to people who need it most.  

Dr Russel said she sees life threatening infections and people who have lived with dental problems for years due to being unable to afford care. 

She would like to see the free dental visits from 18 to 20-21, saying "that would be a really good start", instead of fully funding dental care. 

"Realistically I don't think [fully funding] is going to be possible."

"A lot of young people leave home... their nutrition is not so good and that's when problems start to occur."

"More needs to be done for the people who are not in that age group that are really suffering at the moment." 

Dr Russel said she thought dental care in general was affordable as the "cost of running a dental practice is highly regulated and expensive". 

"realistically I don't think that's going to be possible

 

"realistically I don't think that's going to be possible

 
Helen Clark has urged the government to make dental care fully funded, but Dr Assil Russel says that would be a hard task. Source: Breakfast